Research

Plastic began to disguise itself as stones. How is this dangerous?

Plastic waste every daymore and more takes on the character of a natural disaster. Insidious plastic has already begun to poison marine plankton and has even “reached” the most northern point of our planet - the Arctic. In this case, new and new dangers of this material are constantly being discovered. For example, recently a group of environmentalists managed to find out that plastic began to “mask” like stones and ordinary pebbles. And this is much more dangerous than it might seem at first glance.

Why plastic looks like stones and pebbles

Such a “masked" plastic havingdarkish color, is called "pyroplastic". Pyroplastic is formed by heating ordinary plastic either initially during the manufacturing process, or after disposal. Simply put, for sure, almost all of us burned plastic bottles. And those in the process of burning shrank and blackened. What turned out as a result is pyroplastic.

What is dangerous pyroplastic

Something similar has already been discovered earlier in Hawaii. Some time ago, “plastiglomerates” were discovered on sandy beaches - pieces of plastic melted on a bonfire mixed with sand and shells. Now stone-like plastic structures have begun to show up almost everywhere.

This is interesting: A way was found to remove all plastic from the oceans.

Because pieces of pyroplastics look like stonesthey, logically, often elude our attention and even cleaning teams may not notice a huge amount of dangerous plastic. It should be understood that pyroplastic is not similar to ordinary plastic. He is much more harmful.

Pyroplastics are formed as a result of meltingor burning and are very different from manufactured (primary and secondary) plastics. As a result of thermal exposure, pyroplastic becomes highly toxic to the environment, the researchers write in an article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Since pyroplastics were discovered by our colleagues on beaches in Spain and near Vancouver, it becomes clear that pyroplastics are no longer a local phenomenon. And we have a suspicion that pyroplastics can be very widely distributed. Not least of the fact that it has the ability to "camouflage" like ordinary stones.

And yet the main danger of pyroplastics is not evenin that. Environmentalist Andrew Turner of Plymouth University and his colleagues conducted a series of studies. They took 165 pieces of pyroplastics from the beaches of Whitsand Bay in Cornwall and 30 pieces from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The team tested the samples to find out what they were made of. Spectroscopy showed that the samples were mainly either polyethylene (usually used in plastic bags and when creating food packaging), polypropylene (hard plastic, usually used for bottles and containers), or a combination of both. Do you use plastic dishes? Tell us about it in our chat in Telegram.

Ordinary plastic items can turn into “stones”. At first glance, it’s very difficult to distinguish such “stones” from real ones.

Further x-ray fluorescence analysis revealed inplastics the presence of lead (often accompanied by chromium). This implies the presence of lead chromate, a compound that can be mixed with plastic to give it a yellow, red or orange hue. Its use was limited by the RoHS Directive, but the amount found in the samples exceeds the RoHS limits, which means that the discovered plastic was released before 2003 (it was then that the directive was issued).

In fact, it is due to toxic and mutagenicproperties, the use of lead chromate in the manufacture of plastic products was limited. However, as we see, this was not enough. And extremely dangerous plastic not only poisons the environment without problems, but also “disguises itself” as stones and pebbles, which makes it difficult to clean beaches and ponds from it.